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The Ring I’m Not Wearing

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Last Friday when I started my car this dashboard warning light became illuminated:

 

airbag

 

It was a light I’d never noticed before – one that had never lit up in any of our previous vehicles. Given the graphic representation of the warning light, I figured it was alerting me to one of three possible scenarios:

*  WARNING!  Someone is about to throw a beach ball at your lap!

*  WARNING!  The car’s airbag may be malfunctioning!

*  WARNING!  You have unexpectedly become nine months pregnant!

It turned out to be a loose connection in the passenger airbag wiring – dust it off and tighten the connection. However, almost everything auto-repair wise is electronic these days, and the mechanics had to run their special diagnostics program to discover this simple solution to what could have been a complex problem.

The minimum charge to run the diagnostics program is $120. That’s a grrrrr-worthy charge, but much less than it would have cost to fix a faulty airbag. [1]  I decided to look on the bright side: such an expense is like a Kardashian – totally doable.

 

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures [2]

I made a new friend this week! [3]

 

I’m aware that this kind of announcement is something you’d expect from a five year old reporting the excitement of her first day at kindergarten…or, perhaps, from an adult flustered by unexpected good-fortune.

 

sally

 

 

Guess what? It’s still exciting when it happens to a Person Of A Certain Age and, IMHO, carries even more import.

Observation: By the time you reach your 40s -50s, they’ve (mostly) become established in careers, neighborhoods, and in their family and social lives. If you value your friendships and in turn want to be a valued friend, you spend time cultivating and maintaining those relationships. If you wish to add someone to your buddy circle, your desire to do so doesn’t change certain natural world realities, like the earth’s rotation cycle. That is, there are still only 24 hours to a day, and still only so much time for each and every thing.

 

 

I give that segue a 7 on a scale of 1 to meh.

I give that segue a 7 on a scale of 1 to meh.

 

 

Not to get carried away or over analyze the phenomenon, but I’ve heard others my age bemoan the difficulties of meeting new people and getting to know them past a certain surface level of acquaintance. [4]

Once again, I digress.

The new friendship came about via a letter I wrote to The Oregonian, in response to a letter in that same’s op-ed section written by yet another blithering willfully ignorant religious idiot a sincere but sincerely misinformed man who claimed that our constitutional “freedom to believe what we want to believe” is a “religious idea.”

The Oregonian’s editors ran my letter, which they titled The US Constitution Mentions No God, For Good Reason , in the 2-28-16 print edition, and also online. The next day I received an email from my Soon To Be New Friend, who wondered if I was the same Robyn Parnell who’d written that letter and if so…

I’m writing just to thank you for stating so lucidly and concisely what so many people do not seem to understand regarding what the U.S. Constitution has to say about religion and gods.

Awww, shucks. He had me at lucid and concise,  [5] and also when he went on to mention that I might be interested in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization which works to promote and uphold the constitutional principle of separation of state and church.  STBNF had no way of knowing that the FFRF is an organization I’ve mentioned many times is this blog, and which MH and I are longtime members of.

I responded to STBNF, and we began exchanging emails, discovering other common interests and perspectives.  Besides being an intelligent, witty, perspicacious, charitable and socially responsible freethinker, STBNF is also a writer (whose works, [6] I’d wager, truly merit praise ala lucid and concise). Also like moiself, STBNF has written a self-described “bad” country western-type song…although, unlike moiself, STBNF has actual, demonstrable, musical talent.

STBNF and I met in person this week, for a two hour chat fest lunch. He has offered to possibly help me with a demo of my song, and I have introduced him to the wonderful world of footnotes. [7] I seem to have (so far) gotten the best of this deal.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of BTW

I like Sally Field. I really (sorry) like her.

*   *   *

One afternoon about a year and a half ago, MH told me that, in case I hadn’t noticed, he’d stopped wearing his wedding ring…and in case I had noticed, he wanted to assure me as to why. A combination of The Aging Process © and decades of tapping digits on keyboards had given him arthritis-like symptoms, specifically pain and swelling in his fingers. He removed his ring, hoping that doing so might alleviate the pain, and fearing that if the swelling increased and he left it on, he might have to have the ring cut off.

I hadn’t noticed his wedding band-less finger. After his revelation I decided to commiserate with his situation in the only way that seemed logical to me: by removing my own ring. This has caused just a wee bit o’ eyebrow-raising from people who’ve noticed. I assuage such concerns thusly: my removing my wedding band is not a harbinger of marital discord; rather, it’s a reinforcement of its importance and mutuality.

Up until my marriage I’d never worn rings of any kind – unless you count the Man From Uncle spy decoder ring I had for two weeks in the fifth grade.

 

unclering

 

 

MH and are both married (to each other – how convenient!). I have always refused to be unequally yoked: We chose our wedding rings together; neither of us wore an engagement ring. I would have gently but firmly refused to wear an engagement ring had MH given one to me, [8] unless he had also agreed to don a similar ring.

I’d never understood the practice of a woman wearing an engagement ring while the man’s ring finger remains unencumbered, except as a nod to our culture’s pathetic history of patriarchy. The solo engagement ring tradition is, to me, a vulgar declaration of possession (See the ring? She’s taken; she’s off the market; she’s mine), akin to a dog pissing around a fence post to mark his territory.

Yep, I’m a hopeless romantic, what can I say?

 

taken

 

Look:  you’re both engaged to be married, right? So why the visual representation of the impending change in marital status only for the woman? Which got me wondering: how do gay couples handle this issue? [9]

Speaking of vulgar, despite the stereotype of the ring-coveting female, I’ve yet to have a woman flaunt her engagement ring to me. I have, however, lost track of the number of times I’ve been at a social gathering, been introduced to an engaged couple and had the guy grab his fiance’s left hand, thrust it in my face and demand I admire the huge rock on her finger.

Uh, yeah, dude, I get it: the size of her ring is inDICKative of the size of your ____ (paycheck; ego; penis).

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I spent many years working in women’s reproductive health care, wherein I encountered several married couples who did not wear wedding rings. The no-ring-thing was sometimes for job-related reasons (rings can be safety hazards for jewelers, mechanics and others who work with their hands), sometimes due to dermatologic allergies, and for women, sometimes due to pregnancy-induced swelling (which occasionally led to a permanent change in ring size).

I’ve met more than one married couple who’ve chosen to have their wedding bands tattooed on their fingers. Belle, my tattoo-loving daughter, thinks MH and I should do likewise, and has volunteered to draw up a design for us, based on our original gold bands.

 

 

She's got the talent – this was Belle's own design, which impressed even the veteran tattooist.

She’s got the talent – this was Belle’s own design for her first tattoo, which impressed even the veteran tattooist.

 

 

I thanked my lovely and talented daughter for her generous offer, even as I reminded her that her father’s twin aversions – tattoos and pain – make such an idea unlikely to translate into a reality.  Perhaps if it were someplace on a less sensitive part of the body….

 

wedding_skulls_tattoo_on_chest

*   *   *

May life’s warning lights be entertaining as well as informative;
May your friendships be ever evolving and your yokes be equal,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi! 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Which is, of course, past warranty.

[2] Which may also include gardening, flower arranging, sitting over the drain in the bathtub when the water runs out….

[3] Yep, I’m talking about you, KW.

[4] The friendly man in your pottery class or the genial woman who volunteers alongside you at the Food Bank.

[5] Two adjectives not frequently applied to descriptions of my prose.

[6] A semi-retired software consultant, his books include the Software Requirements series, the go-to manuals on defining and managing requirements for a software or systems project.

[7] That is, their usage in personal correspondence and blog posts. As a writer of nonfiction and technical manuals, he is already well versed in documentation.

[8] He didn’t, as he knew my feelings on the matter.

[9] Lemme guess: with a lot more panache than us straight folks.

The Ring I’m Not Wearing

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When in doubt, blame the weather

This article in The Oregonian blamed last weekend’s amazing weather for the fact that Portland’s annual Wordstock literary festival was “as quiet as a library.” Several attending authors were mumbling similar sentiments: who wouldn’t rather be outside in such a gorgeous weekend, likely the last such weekend of the year?

From my vantage point at the Oregon chapter of the SCBWI table, I wouldn’t have suspected the downturn in attendance had I not heard others commenting about it.  It was my first Wordstock; I was pleased that this year it had been scheduled on a weekend when I was not out of town/laden with previous engagements.  Sure, “traffic” seemed a little slow, but my tablemates and I performed our volunteer duties – touting the benefits of SCBWI membership to inquiring writers and illustrators – while, of course, looking for opportunities to show our own works.  I sold a whopping one copy of The Mighty Quinn (which I considered to be gravy, as the primary mission of those volunteering at the SCBWI table was to promote SCBWI)…and at least I didn’t end up with a negative inventory. [1] Also, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with other SCBWI members, including illustrator Carolyn Conahan (whose works include the delightfully illustrated and titled Bubble Homes and Fish Farts). Carolyn and I shared a Saturday afternoon shift and, it turned out, a mutual loathing of the terms platform and industry.

FISHFARTS

*   *   *

I never wore an engagement ring, for a variety of reasons, including this one.  I just didn’t get the point of it – excuse the senior moment.  Yeah, right.  Make that, I damn well got the point of it, and what I got about it made me ill.

Would you wear an engagement ring? I asked MH, a long long time ago in a dating world far, far away, when we were discussing Our Future ®.  If a woman and a man are both engaged to be married, what’s the point – other than that point which is analogous to dog pissing around a certain spot to mark its territory [2] – for the woman and not the man to wear such a signifier?

engagementring

MH, knowing me well, [3] didn’t bother with The Ring when he proposed marriage. We later chose simple gold wedding bands with a double weave design (and had the date of our wedding engraved on the inside of the band, for those pesky moments when you need a memory prompt.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As of this writing, neither MH nor I are wearing our wedding rings. A couple of weeks ago MH said he wanted to tell me, in case I’d noticed and had wondered [4] his ring was “missing,” that he’d been experiencing painful arthritis-like symptoms in his finger joints and had removed the ring in order to massage the joint. He feared he would be unable to remove the ring later if his joints continued to swell.

The next day I took off my wedding ring.  Since then, I’ve discovered (after looking and asking) that quite a few married couples do not wear wedding rings, usually for medical or similar reasons. [5] My motivation for ring-doffing was similar to my not-wanting-an-engagement-ring reason.  There was no spite or snit fit involved; just pure and practical (to me) relationship logic: I’m not going to wear my ring if MH isn’t wearing his.

I notice my ring’s absence several times a day, when instinctively performing what has become my après-hand washing ritual for the past twenty-five years (twisting the ring and blowing on my ring finger to dry underneath the ring).  I’m aware that it’s not there, but I don’t exactly miss wearing it. I was never a ring-bling person, and other than the two months in high school when I wore the class ring my parents insisted I purchase, [6] I’d never worn a ring prior to getting married (not counting the groovy Man From U.N.C.L.E. spy ring I got in a box of Cracker Jacks).

man_from_uncle

If you want us to wear wedding rings, I said to MH, perhaps we could have new ones designed, with some kind of custom feature (a latch of sorts, that would not pinch the skin) to make removal easy and allow for future, uh, joint expansion.  Belle seems rather pleased with the solution she proposed for our ring dilemma: finally, a legitimate excuse reason to urge her parents to get “tatted.”

RING TATS

*   *   *

Happy Trails to you, Aunt Bug.

Vesta Lucile Parnell Parker died on Sunday, the day after her 85th birthday.  My Aunt Lucile never went by her first name.  She was nicknamed “Bug” in childhood, and was always “Aunt Bug” (pronounced in her Tennessean lilt as Aint Bug) to her nieces and nephews.  Lucile was the youngest of the my father’s five siblings, and although you’re not supposed to play favorites when it comes to family, it was obvious to me that Bug was Chet’s favorite.  She married at 18, had five children, and remained in her home state of Tennessee.  Her brother (later my father) Chet, made his life in California after his gig in the army during WWII.

Aunt Bug was a musician, favoring country/gospel/bluegrass tunes (and even composed a few).  She played guitar and mandolin and a host of other instruments, and I love the fact that her obituary mentions the name of the bluegrass group she and other local musicians formed and played in for years, The Lizard Lick Old Timey String Band.

A college friend and I stayed with Lucile in Tennessee during the return loop of our post-graduation, cross-country road trip. One evening, after fixing us a tasty if a-bit-too-monochromatic-for-me [7] supper, Bug played guitar while she told a story, about how she’d recently had a lovely time with “a local feller who lives up the road a piece,” who’d heard she did some pickin’ and had stopped by to play guitar with her.  “Carl is the sweetest man, and he sure can carry a tune…”  Upon further elicitation of details, it became evident that she was referring to Carl Perkins !!!!  Down-to-earth Lucile couldn’t figure out why my friend and I were so drop-jaw impressed;, why, Carl was just another country boy, and really, a sight more respectable than that one-time buddy of his, Elvis, “…who was into the drugs and the women but some folks ’round here talk about that Elvis Presley like he was the second coming of Jesus just because he loved his momma….”

Geography (and budgets) being what they were, Lucile’s visits with our family and ours with hers were few but memorable. When visiting Santa Ana she always gave in to the demands of her nieces to get out our dad’s Martin guitar and entertain us with her rendition of the just-naughty-enough-for-primetime song, “That Old Rooster.”

Chet Parnell’s children knew Aunt Bug as friendly and amusing, quick with a smile and a hug and a joke, although we later discovered she struggled with bouts of staggering depression from the accumulation of tragedies that befell her family. [8]

My favorite memory of Aunt Bug comes from one of her visits to California, one night when we were all gathered in the living room and she startled us with a spontaneous demonstration of what she described as an endangered vocal skill. The woman could yodel!  Prior to that I had no idea that our cat could rise up on her back legs and hop about in abject terror.

Aunt Bug’s version (both lyrics and melody) was better, but this is an approximation of what she always called the “That Old Rooster” song:

Lucile was the last of the elder Parnell siblings to pass.  My father’s generation is no more; my mother’s three sisters are gone, and she, a frail 85 years old, is the last of hers.  I’ve no grandparents and now no aunts or uncles left.  It’s a poignant observation, not a lament. I’m not sure if my siblings and I are ready to assume the Oldest Generation mantle, but such is life.  It isn’t as if you are asked if you are ready, or have to qualify in any way for the title (other than by not dying young).

I do, however, possess the secret to eternal youth: cultivate an appreciation for immature humor and juvenile pranks life-affirming exuberance, and keep a ready supply of  _____ ____ on hand.  (hint:  rhymes with  oopie pushins)

And, of course, always let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] In two past book fair/author events, I had people walk away with (as in, steal) copies of my first book – which were clearly marked for sale, not for free, when I was distracted.

[2] I’m a hardcore romantic, what can I say?

[3] And yet still wanting to marry me, imagine that.

[4]  I hadn’t noticed, and therfore hadn’t wondered.

[5] Typically weight gain, or joint swelling during pregnancy or as a side effect of medications, etc.

[6] They didn’t want me to miss having that classic high school insignia…which I lost while bodysurfing at Newport Beach.

[7] In true southern style, everything –I mean EVERYTHING, including beautiful, fresh from the garden, ruby red beefsteak tomatoes – ended up yellow (i.e., breaded and fried).

[8] Three of Lucile’s  five children – all of her boys – died young and tragically: two in separate, freak accidents when they were preteens, and her oldest boy, Kirt, committed suicide in his early 20’s. Lucile’s husband, our “Uncle Junior,” took up flying not long after Kirt’s death.  “When he’s up in the air he can just be above all of his worldly cares,” was how Aunt Bug explained the comfort her beloved husband Junior found in piloting his Cessna.  Junior died ~ 20 years ago, when he crashed his plane into a culvert after being unable to pull out of a stall maneuver.